Why ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ hit a high note at the box office

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” might not have nabbed the box office crown, but its domestic debut is still something to sing about.

Universal’s jukebox musical launched with a solid $76.4 million globally, including $34 million in North America and $43.4 million overseas. If its predecessors’ lengthy theatrical run is any indication, the future of the “Mamma Mia!” sequel looks promising.

“Mamma Mia!” — the 2008 adaptation of the hit stage musical — launched slightly behind its follow-up with $27 million. That film, which opened a decade to the month before the follow-up, had long legs at the box office, playing throughout the summer before closing its run in November. Along the way, it generated a massive $465 million internationally and $609 million worldwide. Impressive for most films, but especially given its $52 million production budget.

It’s been a summer flooded with Spandexed heroes and gun-toting vigilantes. Sure, it’s a break from watching the bleak and dreary news cycle, one in which the Mueller investigation and whispers of kompromat dominate the cable chyrons, but “Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado,” “The Equalizer 2,” and “Avengers: Infinity War” aren’t exactly feel-good flicks. That’s where “Mamma Mia! 2” steps in. In true popcorn season form, it’s part of a pseudo-franchise, but unlike its fellow box office counterparts, the “Mamma Mia!” sequel is a bit bouncier.

“There was big pent up demand for a movie like this,” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners.

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'Mamma Mia 2' premiere: Red carpet arrivals
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'Mamma Mia 2' premiere: Red carpet arrivals
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Cher and Meryl Streep attend the 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' world premiere at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Universal Pictures )
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: (L-R) Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson attend the UK Premiere of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' at Eventim Apollo on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Cher and Meryl Streep attend the UK Premiere of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' at the Eventim Apollo on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: (L-R) Amanda Seyfried and Thomas Sadoski attend the UK Premiere of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' at Eventim Apollo on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: (L-R) Lily James and Amanda Seyfried attend the UK Premiere of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' at Eventim Apollo on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: (L-R) Keely Shaye Smith and Pierce Brosnan attend the UK Premiere of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' at Eventim Apollo on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Andy Garcia and Cher attend the 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' world premiere at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Universal Pictures )
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Colin Firth and Livia Firth attend the World Premiere of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' at Eventim Apollo on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: (L-R) Ol Parker and Thandie Newton attend the UK Premiere of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' at Eventim Apollo on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: (L-R) Laura Jayne Smith and Matt Smith attend the UK Premiere of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' at Eventim Apollo on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Cher and Amanda Seyfried attend the World Premiere of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' at Eventim Apollo on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Megan Everett and Stellan Skarsgard attend the UK Premiere of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' at Eventim Apollo on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus from Abba attend the 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' world premiere at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on July 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Universal Pictures )
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Aside from “Ocean’s 8” and “Book Club,” few offerings in the past few months have targeted female audiences. Even less have been family-friendly, and of those, almost all were animated adventures. The audience for “Mamma Mia!” was majority female and skewed younger than the original.

“You can’t make everything for 13-year old-boys. Summer, for the most part, is that,” Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations, said. “I don’t think that’s entirely true of the audiences tastes anymore.”

“Mamma Mia!” is the perfect antidote to traditional summer blockbusters — it’s low-stakes, it’s lighthearted, and it’s pure fun. Moviegoers are hungry for escapism that’s a little lighter. The perfect recipe could be a slice of Lilly James’ soulful rendition of “Mamma Mia,” a hint of Greece’s crystal blue waters, and a dollop of Cher.

“In the last year and a half, there has been so many negative things,” Bock said. “[Audiences] wanted to leave the theater with something to feel good about.”

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